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EU Referendum: the incompetence of Vote Leave

2015-12-30 07:05:02

In a piece typical of its low-grade output, we have in the Telegraph a propaganda spread from Vote Leave Ltd, with the headline: "Costs of EU membership 'outweigh benefits'".

Even by the low standards of this organisation, this work is dire, purporting to show that the cost of the UK's budget contributions to the EU and the burden of just 66 of the EU's single market regulations outweighed what the European Commission claims are the 37.3 billion benefits of the single market by 4.5 billion per year.

At many levels this is wrong, starting with the figure attributed to the UK's budget contributions. Stupidly - and there is no better way to describe it - Vote Leave takes the gross figure at 19.1 billion,  which includes 4.9 billion rebate and 4.5 billion public sector receipts. 

The point here is that the rebate figure is a straight cash return. To claim that EU membership costs us 19.1 billion in membership fees is simply not true. We might pay in that amount, but we get back 4-9 billion with no strings attached.

In terms of the Vote Leave case, this destroys it at the first hurdle. The 4.9 billion rebate is actually more than the 4.5 billion which Vote Leave says is the excess cost of EU membership by 0.4 billion. Even by this single estimation, therefore, the costs of membership are outweighed by the [cash] benefits.

But we can then look at the public sector receipts, of 4.5 billion which include 2.8 billion to cover CAP and rural payments. We would most certainly have to finance this amount for a while at least after we have left the EU, even if we might spend it a little more efficiently. Thus, this 4.5 billion cannot be take as representing a true cost of membership.

On this basis, the sum has to go to the other side of the ledger, which means that, using the comparator defined by Vote Leave Ltd, we actually benefit from EU membership to the tune of 4.9 billion - almost the exact opposite of what is being claimed. Even without going any further, the organisation has just shot itself in the foot with a Colt .45 Magnum.

Even this, though, isn't the end of it. It gets worse. To assess the "burden" of the EU's single market regulations, Vote Leave relies on a shoddy, ill-conceived study executed by Open Europe which we've already reviewed.

It lists what it calls the EU's "costliest rules", based on an analysis of UK Government Impact Assessments. And from this, Vote Leave picks those which are part of the Single Market acquis, totalling 66 in all. To these its attributes a cost burden of 22.7 billion.

The flaws in this work are self-evident, and should have been evident to Vote Leave. They have, after all, been told, and the arguments clearly stated. All they had to do was get off their high horse and read the blog.

Vote Leave's first mistake is to add in two laws: the UK Renewable Energy Strategy, mandated by Directive 2009/28/EC, and the EU Climate and Energy Package, mandated by a bundle of directives: 2009/28/EC; 2009/29/EC; 2009/31/EC; and Decision 2009/406/EC.

Collectively these laws are costed out at 8.1 billion, which looks to be a big deal, but for a slight problem. These same requirements are also mandated by the Climate Change Act, with the UK ahead of the EU requirements and leading the field. Had there been no EU law, the situation would be unchanged - the UK would still be picking up an 8.1 billion tab. To attribute the cost to the EU is absurd.

For its next mistake, Note Leave picking up the CRD IV package, implemented via Directive 2013/36/EU; Regulation 2013/575/EU. To this, costs of 4.6 billion are attributed. But, as anyone in the business knows, CRD IV implements the Basel III. It does not originate with the EU.

As we have reported several times, including here, none other than the House of Lords has reported that it "is likely that the UK would have implemented the vast bulk of the financial sector regulatory framework had it acted unilaterally", observing that the UK was "closely engaged in the development of the international standards from which much EU legislation derives".

On this basis, to attribute the 4.6 billion costs to the single market is also absurd - we would carry the cost in or out of the EU. Thus, Add the 8.1 billion climate change costs and we have another 12.7 billion gone adrift from the Vote Leave equation. This can tag along with the 4.9 billion already isolated, to bring the membership "benefit" to 17.6 billion.

Of all the mistakes Vote Leave make, though, none is more egregious than the 1.3 billion attributed to Directives 2007/34/EC and 2007/35/EC on Motor Vehicles (EC Type Approval). These directives, of course, are the laws implementing UNECE regulations. They would apply whether we were in the EU or not. They are international rules and are not specific to the EU.

With that, and without needing to go any further, the Vote Leave case is in tatters. Employing their own methodology, we have nearly 20 billions in "benefits" from membership of the EU. The "remains" have been given the game, without even having to try.

As it is, even Stronger In have noticed something amiss, asking Vote Leave to "confirm it is your policy that UK exporters should not have access to the single market". And there's the rub. By seeking to show that membership of the EU plus participation in the single market costs the UK money, Vote Leave is trying to make the case that we don't need either.

In fact, unwittingly, the case is being made for continued participation in the single market. The great regulatory burdens that Vote Leave is dredging up in support of its case are illusory. Those supposed burdens cannot be attached specifically to the single market and would have to be carried whether or not we were in the EU.

What this demonstrates more than anything, therefore, is the ineptitude of Vote Leave. It was never a good idea to argue the referendum campaign on economic grounds but, if one is going to, then at least a professional attempt should be made.

This attempt at seizing the high ground is amateur beyond redemption silly little Tory Boys playing at being grown-ups and pretending that know how to fight a campaign. One almost feels embarrassed for the Telegraph that its Deputy Political Editor, Steven Swinford, was gullible enough to run the story in the paper. He should be ashamed of himself.

As for Matthew Elliott, self-appointed chief executive of Vote Leave Ltd, this pretentious know-nothing lacks even the wit to realise how much of a fool he looks. "Our research", he prattles, "shows that the benefits of the single market are far outweighed by the costs of EU regulation which is on top of the the (sic) multi-billion pound bill we give to to (sic) Brussels each year".

With two typos in one sentence, his teenage scribes can't even get his press release right, as they drag down the "leave" campaign to the lowest common denominator. If it wasn't for our commitment to the cause, we would be walking away from this campaign rather than suffer the shame of having to admit we had anything to do with these buffoons.